Rabindranath Tagore must be spinning in his grave. As Chancellor, President Ram Nath Kovind’s paeans to the legacy of Tagore’s creation during the convocation of Visva-Bharati University at ‘amra kunja’ has chimed oddly with the almost simultaneous approval of the Union home ministry to the deployment of the Central Industrial Security Force on the campus.
Visva-Bharati thus becomes the first central university in the country to boast a permanent unit of CISF personnel.
This would suggest that it is a chronically disturbed campus which on closer reflection it is not. In the net, the gun-toting watchdogs in uniform will now protect the culture bequeathed by the poet.
This is far removed from industrial security. It would be pertinent to recall that a paramilitary force, that had been raised to guard public sector undertakings, sensitive installations like the Indian Space Research Organisation, atomic establishments and airports throughout the country will now be mobilised for campus security. This runs counter to the ethics and legacy of Visva-Bharati.
The approval has been extended in response to a request by the Vice-Chancellor, which in itself is an admission of shockingly lax security, exemplified by the theft of Tagore’s Nobel medallion from Rabindra Bhavan in March 2004.
After close to 16 years, the crime has not been cracked either by the university’s own security or the guards of a private agency or Birbhum’s police administration, or for that matter the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The university’s own security team has failed miserably; its performance has been impeded by trade unionism. Nay more, it had blocked the induction of private security personnel for as long as it could and had even opposed the induction of the CBI.
In the context of the ViceChancellor, Professor Bidyut Chakraborty’s request to the Union home ministry, it is hard not to wonder whether there has been an alarming deterioration of security, that may not be apparent on the face of it. Is it possible that security has not been beefed up even after the Nobel theft? Is it possible that the security unit and also, of course the authorities, have beem impervious to offences in the girls’ hostels, not to forget that a child was forced to drink her urine by the hostel warden.
Such offences do necessitate stricter vigil and tighter discipline. It is fervently to be hoped that the new security arrangement will not be so obtrusive as to bar tourists from visiting the university’s ‘bhavans’ of interest, and their instructional value.
To guard the treasures of Tagore must of necessity be accorded uppermost priority. In the immediate aftermath of the Home ministry’s approval, both the students and the faculties are divided over the deployment of CISF on the campus. Visva-Bharati’s theme song, ‘Amader Santiniketan’, might now sound a mite jarring. More’s the pity.